False Memory Defense in court, retractor information

December 21, 2009 § Leave a comment

The “False Memory” Defense: Using Disinformation and Junk Science in and out of Court Charles L. Whitfield, M.D., F.A.S.A.M.- Journal of Child Sexual Abuse 9 (3 & 4) Haworth Press (2001)

…in a study of 30 malpractice law suits by retractors against their former therapists for “implanting false memories” or “implanting DID,” Scheflin and Brown (1999) found that most of the 30 had recovered their memories and/or had the diagnosis of DID made before the sued therapist had seen them. There were many other kinds of direct and circumstantial evidence in these cases. Nearly all 30 retractors had been previously given multiple co-morbid psychiatric diagnoses that are extensively reported in the clinical scientific literature to be associated with or caused by childhood trauma, especially child sexual abuse (e.g., Herman, 1992; Whitfield, 1997c, 1998c). These included: major depression (e.g., Kendler, et al, 2000), anxiety disorders (e.g., McCauley, et al, 1997), PTSD (e.g,, Rowan, Foy, Rodriguez, & Ryan, 1994), major dissociative disorders (e.g., Whitfield, 1997c), personality disorders such as borderline personality disorder (e.g., Herman, 1992), and major addictions such as chemical dependence and eating disorders (e.g., Felitti, et al, 1998; Herman, 1992; McCauley, et al, 1997). Ninety percent (27 of the 30) had a diagnosis of either DID (11 retractors) or Dissociative Disorder, Not Otherwise Stated (DD-NOS) (17 retractors) (Scheflin & Brown, 1999).

Nearly all of the therapists sued had given the retractors appropriate stage-oriented trauma treatment. In none of the 30 cases was there any mention or evidence of “recovered memory therapy” or a single-minded focus on recovering memories of abuse. Scheflin and Brown (1999) said, “.later, after encounters with pro-false memory (mis)information, the patient came to misattribute the source of his/her abuse memory to the defendant therapist and forgot that it had been self-reported, sometimes being recovered outside the context of therapy” (p. 685). In fact Scheflin and Brown (1999) found that if any false information was implanted, it likely occurred by exposure to pro-false memory sources close to or after the time of the identified therapy sessions. They said, “in all 30 cases the plaintiff failed to report his or her vulnerability to post-therapeutic suggestive influences that might have been operative in the shaping of the retraction belief itself..the most striking finding from our analysis was [that] the significant post-therapeutic suggestive influences associated with the development of the retraction belief could be identified in every one of the 30 cases” (p. 687).

They conclude, “In our analysis of these 30 cases, significant exposure to false memory (mis)information occurred in the great majority of the cases and had a significant impact on the progressive shaping of retraction beliefs. .What do these data tell us? That sometimes litigious patients, plaintiff attorneys, and other individuals intentionally solicit other former patients in order to influence them” (Scheflin & Brown, 1999, p. 688). http://childabuse.georgiacenter.uga.edu/both/whitfield/whitfield24.phtml

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